CruiseDeals.co.uk surveyed a series of leading industry figures, from the CEOs of major cruise lines to passionate travel bloggers and futurologists, to find out how cruises could look by 2026. The predictions have been surprising to say the least, with augmented reality and trips to Antarctica all on the horizon.
- Cruise lines look set to welcome a new generation of tech-savvy travelers
- Asia will dominate the UK cruise market, while Antarctica looks set to attract young couples and families
- It’s the end of the classic white cruise ship, as exteriors become colourful advertising hoardings
- Virtual reality headsets, drone training facilities and gourmet cooking classes are all set to become common features by 2026.
Whether you’re an experienced cruiser or are getting set for your first adventure on the seas, these days you can always expect to find a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities onboard.
While luxury spas and touch-screen itinerants seemed space age a mere 10 years ago, they’re now common features on a number of ships. Even so, exactly where the cruise industry is heading over the next decade largely remains a mystery. To help piece some of the puzzle together, we contacted some leading industry figures and conducted our own research into the future of cruising, circa 2026.
- Segway rides and state-of-the-art fitness suites to become commonplace
- Renowned chefs lined up to enhance dining experiences
The emergence of pioneering technologies brings the potential for cruisers to experience a vast new range of onboard activities. “Cruise lines will continue to outdo each other, introducing more ‘first at sea’ activities,” explains Fiske. So, what kind of new experiences can we expect to see? Segway rides, state-of-the-art fitness suites and augmented reality systems are predicted to become the norm by 2026.
Also set to grow is the number of onboard aquariums, alongside the introduction of innovative underwater viewing facilities. Dining will continue to play a key role on ships, as the number of celebrity chefs and exclusive onboard dining areas looks set to increase over the coming decade. “Dining is a vital part of any holiday… a focus on distinct dining spaces by design makes these areas vary from ship to ship”, explains Director of CLIA UK & IRE, Andy Harmer.
Perhaps the most surprising prediction comes from the growing trend for learning and educational facilities onboard. Whether you’re keen to become acquainted with the latest technologies or are hoping to sharpen your culinary skills at sea, our data suggests that there will be more opportunities than ever for guests to learn something new.
“The choice of onboard experiences will evolve even further”, predicts Managing Director for Holland America Line and Seabourn, Lynn Narraway, who also sees the potential for gyms to incorporate indoor cycling rooms, suspension training facilities and medi-spas.
- Cruise lines adapt to welcome a younger generation of tech-savvy guests
- Free Wi-Fi to become a standard utility onboard
- Cabin cards ditched in favour of futuristic wristbands
Some of the most drastic changes are expected to come in the form of new technologies, continuing the trend for cruise ships to pioneer the latest gadgets before they are adopted by the travel industry on a wider scale. Perhaps the most exciting of these innovations is the virtual reality headset, forecast to become commonplace on cruise ships within the next decade.
As travel blogger David Fiske explains “virtual reality headsets offer unlimited opportunities for all ages, while using little premium space on ships”.
As cruise ships continue to stay ahead of the digital curve, many industry insiders are also predicting a huge increase in free connectivity while at sea. “The first major addition will be anywhere, any time 5G or 6G Wi-Fi” suggests Futurist Thomas Frey.
Cruisers can also expect to witness the demise of the traditional cabin card, in favor of state-of-the-art wristbands equipped with the latest Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. As well as allowing passengers to keep important personal information on themselves at all times, the wristbands also look set to make family holidays a little bit easier by offering parents the chance to track children while onboard.
NOTE: For an expansive look at the future of the cruise industry, go to “Fourteen New Dimensions for Rethinking the Future Cruise Ship Experience” by Futurist Thomas Frey
- Asia set to dominate the UK cruise market
- Antarctica and Alaska to draw in families and younger cruisers
- Ship design looks set to change in order to access new destinations
Keen to begin planning for a future trip but not sure where to go? “Asia continues to be an exciting destination with more potential” claims Nicola McNeish of Celebrity Cruises. Such sentiments are mirrored by other popular cruise lines, many of which are looking to get the most medium to long-term growth from the region.
Antarctica and Alaska look set to grow in popularity too, particularly for younger cruisers. The reason? “There is still something new to see”, explains blogger Mike King. The trend doesn’t look set to spell the end of European cruises, however. Fiske expects cruise lines to “add more variation” to existing itineraries, breathing new life into heavily trodden routes.
The demand to access new destinations will no doubt have an impact on cruise ship design, too. Harmer points to a need for design features to evolve in order to access previously inaccessible destinations.
“On rivers we are seeing new opportunities arise around the world… new ship build techniques make it increasingly possible to explore these,” he explains. Regular cruisers can also expect to see changes to the outside of the ship.
“The classic white cruise ship will soon become a thing of the past” forecasts Fiske, who suggests that ship exteriors will become increasingly vibrant and colourful as ships transform existing fleets into floating advertisements.
- Families and young couples set to experience newly modernised cruise ships
- Cruise lines introduce an increased number of onboard work environments
- Guests to be offered an increasingly personalised experience
As ships continue to modernise, cruise lines are keen to shed the common stereotypes associated with cruising and attract a new era of young, tech-savvy travellers. “The cruise demographic is becoming younger every year”, suggests Narraway, who predicts that a wider variety of people will choose cruising as their preferred mainstream holiday.
“Families and younger travellers will play a more important part in the future” explains Harmer. Premium space onboard also looks set to evolve, with the introduction of more ‘shared’ areas, allowing for single spaces to be used for a number of different purposes.
This comes alongside an increase in onboard workspaces, as a greater amount of travelers are keen to stay connected while at sea. “Collaborative work environments are natural conversation starters as well as fertile territory for discovering new friends and business contacts”, Frey explains.
Frey also predicts an increased emphasis on ‘hyper-individuality’ on ships. As cruise lines compete to provide a highly personalised experience for travellers, everything from food and drink to leisure and entertainment activities look set to become increasingly tailored to each individual.
While it’s impossible to accurately predict exactly where the cruise industry is heading in the future, current trends suggest that more will be done to modernise the cruising experience and attract a growing number of young travellers. “Nothing is impossible,” concludes McNeish, “the cruise sector has a strong track record of proving that”.